As a mother of young kids, I sometimes have occasion to find interesting things in my pockets or my purse. Like the time I reached for my gloves in my coat pocket only to find a pair of Boo’s underwear. After about two seconds of staring blankly, I realized that we’d removed them at gymnastics one day because they showed so much beneath her leotard.
The saving grace: they weren’t dirty…you know what I mean.
And then, of course, there are the times too many to count when I find used Kleenex, candy wrappers, and smashed up – and therefore rejected by anyone under the age of 10 – granola bars.
I’ve eaten a lot of smashed up granola bars in the past few years.
Today I found half a roll in my purse. And, rather than being cross, I had to smile. As I stood there in the parking lot of a large local store, I was transported in time to the lobby of an enormous French department store, 25 years ago.
My mom and I spent spring break of my junior year of high school in Paris. As we lived in Germany at the time, and as my dad flew for Pan American Airlines, this wasn’t the big deal that you might have initially thought. While the family-owned hotel we stayed in was not free, the air tickets at least were, so this helped make such trips possible. We also economized on food…which was why having a roll in my purse triggered such a memory.
Mom and I decided to investigate Printemps – a famous French department store which handily happened to be quite near to the Paris Opera house – of Phantom of the Opera fame – which we wanted to see. After leaving the opera house (a disappointing visit, as there were no tours available at the time) we crossed the street to Printemps and joined the crowds entering the regulated doorways.
It was 1987, and Europe was terrorist-sensitive. So, after pushing through the revolving doors, customers were then subject to bag searches.
At lunch that day my mother and I hadn’t been able to eat our rolls…and, being cost-conscious (and the French baguettes being so delicious), we had wrapped them in a napkin and taken them with us. In my purse.
It was at that moment that a French cliché became a family story. And a French gendarme had a good laugh.
“Ooh, la la!” said the tickled policeman. “Le pain!”
I blushed. Mumbled something like, “Yeah, I mean ‘oui’.” And he waved us on, still chuckling, still amused by our American ways.
Up until that time, I don’t think I ever really believed that French people truly said, “Ooh, la la!” I thought it was just a movie thing. Just a myth, just a stereotype.
“Ooh, la la! Le pain!”
As Mom and I walked away we couldn’t help but laugh.
I was still embarrassed, though. But hey, it was delicious “pain” – what can I say?
The goose pate, though…that’s a story for another day…